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Will Big Pharma Take a Hit on Its Greed in November?

Pharmaceutical companies have given about $70 million to help defeat the Drug Price Relief Act. (CcPixs.com / CC 2.0)

Pharmaceutical companies have given about $70 million to help defeat the Drug Price Relief Act. (CcPixs.com / CC 2.0)

The pharmaceutical company Mylan has come under heavy criticism over its steep price hikes on EpiPens, carried by users to stop allergic reactions in an emergency. Though the company experienced no new costs for the lifesaving product, it decided to charge consumers exorbitant prices for it, anyway, raising the price over 400 percent since 2007.

This news has brought more focus to California’s Proposition 61, the Drug Price Relief Act. Going before voters on the Nov. 8 ballot, it aims to help control the costs of prescription medications, something President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act does not do.

With the election just 10 weeks away, drug companies are doing all they can to defeat the Drug Price Relief Act. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Of roughly $250 million raised for and against 17 ballot measures coming before California voters in November, more than a quarter of that amount—about $70 million—has been contributed by deep-pocketed drug companies to defeat the Drug Price Relief Act.

Contributions aimed at killing the initiative are on track to be the most raised involving a single ballot measure since 2001, the earliest year for which online data are available, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in politics.

The Drug Price Relief Act would make prescription drugs more affordable for people in Medi-Cal and other state programs by requiring that California pay no more than what’s paid for the same drugs by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It would, in other words, protect state taxpayers from being ripped off.

Industry donations to crush the Drug Price Relief Act “will top $100 million by the election, I’m quite certain of it,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a leading backer of the state measure, also known as Proposition 61. “They see this as the apocalypse for their business model.”

The drug industry already has succeeded in eviscerating Senate Bill 1010, legislation in Sacramento that would have required pharmaceutical companies to detail the costs of producing medicine and explain any price increases. The bill’s author, state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), pulled it from consideration last week after industry lobbyists succeeded in watering it down with business-friendly provisions.

According to Reuters, since 2011 the top drug suppliers in the United States have increased the cost of medications for such common ailments as arthritis, high cholesterol and asthma by up to 100 percent.

Read more about the Drug Price Relief Act here.

— Posted by Donald Kaufman

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